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Cablegate: Parliament "in Balance": Act Party Swears In

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS WELLINGTON 001018

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

DEPT FOR EAP/ANP

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV NZ PBIO
SUBJECT: PARLIAMENT "IN BALANCE": ACT PARTY SWEARS IN
REPLACEMENT TO ROGUE MP


1. (U) ACT Party MP Kenneth Wang was sworn into Parliament
November 30, replacing former ACT MP Donna Awatere Huata.
Huata was removed from Parliament November 19, after losing a
year-long court battle to retain her seat, which culminated
in a Supreme Court hearing. The Supreme Court, in its first
substantive finding since its inception in January, ruled
that Huata distorted the proportionality of Parliament by
voting as an Independent, and that Huata had no legal basis
on which to bar ACT from invoking the "party-hopping" clauses
of the Electoral (Integrity) Amendment Act in order to remove
Huata from the Party and Parliament. Speaker of the House
Jonathan Hunt announced Huata's seat vacant following the
Supreme Court's finding.

Fraud, Abuse, Recriminations
----------------------------

2. (U) Awatere Huata's troubles began in December 2002, with
media accusing her of using funds from the children's reading
program Pipi Foundation for a stomach stapling operation.
The ACT Caucus voted to suspend her membership in February
2003, and she has voted as an Independent since that date.
Following an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office, Huata
and her husband Wi Huata will appear in court December 9 to
face 19 counts of misusing checks and perverting the course
of justice.

New Zealand's Changing Demographic
----------------------------------

3. (U) Kenneth Wang's entrance into Parliament as the first
Chinese male MP reflects New Zealand's increasing diversity,
and emphasizes the growing importance of the Asian
electorate, although ACT has been quick to downplay the issue
of ethnicity. Wang, 39, was born in China, and emigrated to
NZ in 1984. Wang has spoken to the Press about his
experiences during the Cultural Revolution, and the impact on
him of witnessing the communist authorities, crackdown on
dissent and intellectualism. "That taught me a lesson that
the socialist ideology and way is often not the best way."
Wang is managing director of his own small business
Brandworks, an Auckland-based marketing and advertising
agency. He will be the ACT Party's Spokesman for Commerce
and Small Business, and Associate Spokesperson for Education.
Wang is married to Li Ma, and has two children, Colin and
Amy.

Comment
-------

4. (SBU) Wang's entrance into Parliament will provide ACT
its full complement of 9 MPs out of 120. This not only
restores lost funding, but advances the Party ahead of the
center-left Green Party (9 seats) for provision of questions,
seating and speaking order. While ACT's advancement is
largely an issue of protocol, Hide likely hopes to capitalize
on its better seating and increased number of questions to
further its successful attacks on the Government, which most
recently led to Labour MP John Tamihere's resignation from
Cabinet. ACT's financial boost, combined with the chance to
refocus the substantial resources diverted to this case,
could not come at a better time for a party polling at less
than 3 percent, a far cry from their 7 percent take in the
2002 election, and only half of the minimum 5 percent
threshold for entry into Parliament. ACT needs to focus on
moving voters past the Huata scandal and onto its policies as
the 2005 election looms.
Swindells

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